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Researchers question the effectiveness of training staff in breakaway techniques

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Christian Duffin reports from the RCN forensic nursing forum conference

The NhS is wasting large sums of money on training staff how to escape from violent patients because there is no evidence that the techniques they are taught are effective.

That is the view of two nurse researchers who have examined whether nurses taught 'breakaway techniques' and other physical interventions are using them in practice. Richard Benson, a mental health nurse and senior lecturer in forensic health at the University of Glamorgan, said that most nurses simply forget the training methods they were taught or use other techniques.

Speaking at the RCN forensic nursing conference in London in January, he suggested that NhS organisations send nurses on courses merely to comply with 'health and safety requirements' and to protect themselves from litigation, not because they think nurses will learn important skills.

These conclusions come partly from Mr Benson's own research. he asked a group of 47 nurses to demonstrate 'breakaway' techniques some time after they had been on a course. The nurses were given an envelope warning them they would be subjected to a hold within ten seconds. They had to think on their feet and decide how to break from each hold. Mr Benson found that only 60 per cent of moves were completed using a technique they had been taught.


He draws parallels between nurse training and the way participants in sports such as baseball learn new skills. Baseball batters learn how to hit the ball and improve over a long period by having balls thrown at them from different heights, angles and speeds, whereas nurses in breakaway training are exposed only to a limited number of violent patient scenarios over a short period, he added.

'We can see from other research in sports science that...